ELF 2023: Western Conference Preview and Predictions

With the kickoff of the 2023 European League of Football (ELF) season right around the corner, it is time to break down each team within the Western Conference and predict how their seasons will shape up.

Rhein Fire (11–1)

Where to begin with the Fire? They have annihilated the offseason and added to a roster that was already stacked. On the offensive side of the ball quarterback Jadrian Clarke will now get a full year to prepare and build some chemistry with one of the most talented receiver rooms in the ELF. In addition to this, they have snagged Yasir Raji from the GFL and Jan Hendrik Koch from Cologne to give Clarke a little more time in the pocket. They will also get rushing leading Glen Toonga halfway through the season once his suspension finishes.

But it wasn’t only the offense that seemed to get a massive upgrade this year. On defense, the Fire coaxed one of the best defenders in the league last year in Alejandro Fernandez over to Rhein as well as Flamur Simon. On top of this, they didn’t really lose anyone from last year’s squad. 

Everyone is talking about how the Fire are the team to beat right now, and for good reason. Paris may be able to get one over them in the regular season, but the rest of the year should be smooth sailing. For the Fire, anything but a championship ring this year will be a major disappointment.

Paris Musketeers (10–2)

The news kids on the block. The trendy streets of Paris seem to be the perfect landing spot for quarterback Zach Edwards and his receiver Kyle Sweet. The two were borderline unstoppable last year as they carried the Barcelona Dragons into the playoffs. Edwards will also be reunited with former teammates Remi Bertellin and Adria Botella Moreno. The familiarity between the group will be essential as the team looks to build some rhythm in their first ever season as a team.

The Musketeers have two solid defensive imports in Dauson Dales – who played with head coach Marc Matiolli in Parma – and Cam Hilton, but it will be their domestic talent that could make or break the team. For the most part, French football is somewhat of an unknown. The country has produced countless freak athletes in multiple sports, so there is little doubt there. The only concern is whether Matiolli can bring them all together against monster opponents who are seasoned in the ELF…or in the Surge’s case, the GFL

Hamburg Sea Devils (8–4)

The thing about the Sea Devils is that they haven’t actually gotten worse. If anything, they’ve dramatically improved on offense. The only problem is other teams have skyrocketed. The Hamburg defense was their identity. Hardnosed, fast football. The core of the team is still there on defense, minus some key domestics like Kasim Edebali and Miguel Boock. But there have also been a few signings of Germans playing abroad which could see their defense have a similar output as last year.

The biggest upgrade will be their offense. Preston Haire has joined the team at quarterback after a remarkable college career and will allow a level of diversity to the play calling the team has probably never seen. He will also be joined by Malik Stanley after a half decent season at receiver with Wroclaw. He was perhaps one of the most underrated receivers in the league last year due to the state of the Panthers, but should be able to excel in this new system.

The Sea Devils will likely make the playoffs again, especially with its now expanded format, but beating the likes of the Musketeers or Fire will be a tough challenge.

Frankfurt Galaxy (5–7)

The 2021 ELF champions suffered from a sophomore-slump in 2022. Quarterback Jakeb Sullivan was injured for parts of 2022, and when he was on the field he looked like a shadow of his former self. 

On the upside, he did seem to have a great connection with former NFL receiver Reece Horn who the Galaxy have brought back for 2023. If the pair can find their rhythm early and often, they should be in a good situation.

One part of the game the Galaxy will excel in is defense. Their defensive backfield is probably the best in the league. Nevada alumnus Berdale Robins, former NFL defensive back Jamalcolm Liggins, CFL camp invite Tony Anderson and GFL veteran Joshua Poznanski will be a scary secondary for any quarterback to throw against. In addition to this, the Galaxy will be reunited with Sebastian Gauthier as well as an extremely deep linebacking corps that includes Sebastian Silva Gomez and Wael Nasri.

The Galaxy’s defense should be good enough to shut out the likes of Fehérvár, Cologne and maybe even Milano, but leaning solely on your defense against a team like Rhein Fire will be too much to handle. The Galaxy will be competitive, but they’ll be overachieving if they make the playoffs. 

Cologne Centurions (3–9)

Football in Cologne has been a bit of a nightmare the last few months, in both the ELF and GFL. And players have unfortunately been the ones suffering.

Dylan Jacob is the new quarterback in Cologne after Daniel Smith departed mysteriously just weeks before the season. Jacob was the quarterback for the crosstown Crocodiles, but after the team folded, he was left without a team. Fortunately for him and the Centurions, he found his way to the ELF team.

Unfortunately for him however, his roster is a little shallow. Some of the most talented domestic players the Centurions had have gone elsewhere and their choice in Euro import has been questionable. Wideout Terryon Robinson was an excellent pickup, the only issue is we don’t know what we’ll get out of Jacobs after a subpar collegiate career.

The irony in super linebacker Zachary Blair and Robinson both coming to Cologne after great seasons with a horrific Istanbul Rams team is bittersweet. It will be fun watching Blair make 20 tackles a game and Robinson score some insane do-it-yourself touchdowns, but don’t expect the team as a whole to be winning many games.

Daniel Mackenzie is a Press Association graduate who works in journalism and communications in the third sector. Daniel began playing football for the London Warriors and Team Great Britain and has since played across Europe.